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Council restores $129M in school cuts

Fears and concerns over the future of city classrooms were quelled Sunday when the City Council approved the 2009 budget that granted $129 million in funding for city schools and restored cuts proposed in the mayor's spending plan.

The budget brought collective sighs of relief from parents and elected officials in Queens concerned over how the mayor's cuts would affect their schools.

"The Council was able to keep the promise to New York City's children by working together with the mayor to restore the proposed education cuts to the classroom," City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), the Council's Finance Committee chair, said in a news release.

The proposed cuts, estimated by the United Federation of Teachers to be $450 million, fueled public demonstrations throughout the city, including a march of more than two dozen parents of District 25 students in May.

Two Bayside high schools were among city schools to be hardest hit by the cuts, according to the UFT. Cardozo High School was at risk to lose $868,388, or roughly 4 percent of its budget, while Francis Lewis High School faced cuts of $667,577, or 2.6 percent, from its budget.

Community District Education Council 26 President Rob Caloras believes the Council funding will restore much of the schools' budgets.

"I'm very, very happy that they got the extra money," he said.

The mayor and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) also announced plans to create a $12 million incentive grant program for middle schools and a $7 million fund for schools with a large number of English-learning students.

In addition, the Council and city Department of Education agreed to focus on efforts to reduce class size. The DOE further agreed to make the use of their state-granted Contracts for Excellence funds available to the public.

Bloomberg and the Council came to an agreement on the 2009 budget just days before deadline. In a news release, Quinn said she spent weeks working on negotiations to protect education funding.

"Even in the toughest financial times, New York City cannot afford to reduce our commitment to education, especially when our schools are finally moving in the right direction," Quinn said.

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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